Putin and Poroshenko meet face-to-face to discuss future of Ukraine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 11:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 11:08am

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine met face-to-face yesterday for the first time since June to talk about the fighting that has engulfed Ukraine's separatist east.

From their opening remarks, however, it appeared unlikely that Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko would find common ground.

The two leaders faced each other across a large round table and were joined by the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and three senior officials from the European Union.

Contrary to some expectations, they did not meet one-on-one ahead of the talks, but they did stage a handshake for the cameras.

Watch: Russia-Ukraine crisis talks drag with no breakthrough

"The fate of my country and Europe is being decided here in Minsk today. The interests of Donbass [eastern Ukraine] have been and will be taken into account," Poroshenko said as the talks began.

Poroshenko said all those involved wanted to emerge with dignity from the Ukrainian crisis and that he would listen to all options in a bid to bring peace.

Putin, however, barely mentioned the brutal fighting, though he did say that the crisis could not be solved by a further military escalation or without dialogue with representatives of the country's Russian-speaking eastern regions.

He also said the Russian economy could suffer a loss of some 100 billion roubles (HK$21 billion) if EU goods reach Russia via Ukraine, bypassing the tariffs Russia levies on EU goods.

"Russia cannot remain idle in such a case and we will simply be forced to take decisive measures to protect our market," he said, adding that would include reversing trade preferences for imports from Ukraine.

Opening yesterday's meeting, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged both sides to "discard political ambitions and not to seek political dividend".

The talks came as Ukraine said it had captured 10 Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine and the shelling spread to a new front in the far southeast. Videos were released by Ukrainian authorities of interrogations of prisoners, who said they were serving Russian army officers.

Sources in Moscow admitted the men were serving Russian soldiers, but said they crossed the border by mistake.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of supporting and arming the pro-Russian rebels, which Russia denies daily.

Associated Press, Bloomberg, The Guardian